888 Holdings receive a record penalty fee from UKGC for customer protection violation
One of the British biggest online betting companies but an operator with a global reach, 888 Holdings, has been forced to pay a record penalty package of nearly $10 million for not helping vulnerable customers to limit the damage of their gambling addictions.
Undetected Technical Glitch
The UK Gambling Commission said that 888 failed to protect vulnerable players from addictive gambling since a technical glitch went undetected for a “prolonged period of time”. The technical failure in the system allowed more than 7,000 customers to keep accessing one of 888’s platforms between October 2015 and September 2016 and to deposit $4.5 million even though they previously agreed to a self-exclusion deal.
Self-exclusion is a facility offered by gambling sites for players who fear they have become addicted to gambling and decided to stop gambling.
They should be excluded from the site for at least six months and the sites should be supportive in their decision but in this case the players were able to access their accounts on 888’s bingo platform, although they self-excluded from the 888 casino, poker and sport platform, and then continued to gamble for 13 months.
Failure to Detect Problem Gambling Red Flags
Except for the fact that 888 didn’t have self-exclusion procedures in place, it also failed to recognize visible signs of problem gambling behaviour displayed by an individual customer which finally resulted in criminal activity.
One customer placed a large number of bets, played for 3-4 hours a day and stacked nearly $1.7 million, including $80,000 stolen from their employer. 888’s failing to detect this and the lack of interaction with the customer, raised serious concerns about 888’s safeguarding of customers at-risk of gambling harm.
“Safeguarding consumers is not optional. This penalty package of just under $10million reflects the seriousness of 888’s failings to protect vulnerable customers,” said Sarah Harrison, chief executive of the UK Gambling Commission.
The $10 million sum includes repayment of $4.52 million of deposits made by those customers who chose to self-exclude and also a compensation of $80,000 to the employer from whom money was stolen in that particular case.
The Commission said that a further $4.49 million would be paid to a socially responsible cause with the idea that it helps finance measures to tackle gambling-related harm.
The Commission also ordered an independent audit of 888’s processes relating to customer protection for “future assurance”.